How Punk Rock Bowling filled Fremont East with a spirit of unity and adventure

Punk rock love: Wild hair meets even wilder hair Downtown.
Bill Hughes
Chris Bitonti

In its second year Downtown, the 14th annual Punk Rock Bowling Music Festival successfully raised the bar again. The main festival grounds were packed with punks of all ages from the moment the gates opened until each night’s headliner finished. With the outdoor fest, pool parties and aftershows roaring, fans experienced music from Friday night until Monday morning. And the festival offered an opportunity for newer groups like Holding Onto Sound and American Heist to interact with veterans like Rancid, NOFX and G.B.H.

It’s striking how punk rock has held onto its fans over the years, while bringing in new generations of young ruffians looking to rebel. At times, PRB 2012 felt like the Bay Area of the mid-’90s: tons of great punk bands packed into a small area, sharing bills, band members and stages—a fertile breeding ground for memorable spontaneous moments.

A few of my favorite specifics:

1. Laura Jane Grace, formerly Tom Gabel, at Against Me!’s unannounced solo performance at the Beauty Bar Saturday night—one of her first shows since announcing she would live as a woman. Just over a month into hormone replacement therapy, Grace proved she can still rock as hard as ever.

2. Average lifespan of bands who played the main stage: 17 years. Punk’s not dead. Hell, it can’t even vote yet. Bonus fun fact: Eleven bands on the bill had been together over 20 years.

3. A few of the most outrageous punk band patches I spotted on fan’s jackets: The Slob Dylans, Gimp Wrist, Leftover Crack, Donkey Schlong and my personal favorite, Fart Barf.

4. No one eating at the raw/vegan food tent. So punk rock.


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